Lewis Hamilton will bid farewell to McLaren from the front of the Brazilian GP grid having edged Jenson Button at Interlagos
The McLaren driver, who is off to Mercedes next season, had dominated Friday's running before losing out to Button in final practice. Many expected a battle of the McLarens for pole position and that's exactly what we got as Hamilton posted a 1:12.458 to beat Button by just 0.05s.
Mark Webber was third quickest, 0.123s off the pace, while Sebastian Vettel could only manage fourth. The German, though, won't be too upset as his title rival, Fernando Alonso, is down in eighth place.
Qualifying ReportIt had rained half an hour before the start of qualifying, reducing track temperature from the 50C it had been yesterday to 25C today with an ambient temperature of 23C.
So it was a drying track with wet and dry patches around the circuit as the pitlane exit light turned green. Marussia, HRT and Caterham jostled for position at the end of the pitlane and the Saubers also came out to join in the opening foray of multiple laps on a drying track.
There was actually overtaking in the first few minutes as Timo Glock overtook the Caterham of Heikko Kovalainen into Juncao, both of them on timed laps. The new teams were hoping that it would suddenly start raining but the track radar predicted no more rain for 40 minutes. In the end there was none.
Kamui Kobayashi beat Timo Glock's opening 1:30 by six seconds with a 1:24.957 and then reduced that down to 1:22.415. The Toro Rossos had come out and Jean-Eric Vergne edged P1 with a 1:22.355. This started a ping-pong match of P1 times with the Japanese driver. Kobayashi took it back with a 1:20.607, Vergne grabbed it off him with a 1:20.567, Kobayashi nicked it back with a 1:20.494, Vergne retrieved it with a 1:18.986.
Pastor Maldonado had two laps on top with a 1:18.709 and then a 1:17.894. Then it was team-mate Bruno Senna's turn with a 1:17.803. At one stage during the Q3 session Maldonado found himself behind an HRT going into the long pit straight and put a wheel onto the grasscrete at the end of the circuit in a passing move - brave stuff. Earlier, Nico Hulkenberg tried a set of Intermediate tyres to see what they could do but he was markedly slower and came back in to change them.
The top teams left it late before coming out and started making serious inroads into the P1 time on what was now a rapidly drying track. Lewis Hamilton took P1 with a 1:17.772, followed by Alonso with a 1:17.385 and then Hamilton again with a 1:17.346.
Sergio Perez had been loitering down in P20 and while the likes of Red Bull and McLaren were running the hard tyre, equipped with the medium he made it up to P1 with a 1:16.941. DiResta improved it to 1:16.621, Alonso reduced it to 1:16.585 and then Lewis Hamilton banged in a 1:16.147.
Sebastian Vettel looked tentative throughout the session and it was only after Bruno Senna took over at the top with a 1:15.955 that he slotted into P2. At this stage of the session there was debris on the circuit and replays showed that Romain Grosjean had tried to jam his Lotus up the inside of Pedro de la Rosa's HRT on the pitstraight, braking hard at the last minute as his wing struck the barrier, also puncturing the HRT' left-rear and braking its DRS
Grosjean lost parts of his front wing and shed it entirely on the following lap as it got jammed back under his car before sliding out and off the circuit at Juncao. He headed back to the pits for a hasty change, plus an investigation from the stewards after the qualifying hour.
Going into the last two minutes of the session, the danger positions were: 16.Raikkonen, 17.Grosjean, 18.Kovalainen, 19.Maldonado, 20.Petrov, 21.Glock, 22.Karthikeyan, 23.Pic, 24.de la Rosa.
At the front Lewis Hamilton was setting about P1 with a vengeance reducing the fastest time to 1:15.551 and then 1:15.075 just for the hell of it.
At the back, Maldonado escaped into P11 and Romain Grosjean looked like he'd pulled clear when he managed a last minute jump to P17, only to find Daniel Ricciardo take P16 as virtually the last car across the line, thus demoting the Lotus driver. So out went: 18.Grosjean, 19.Petrov, 20.Kovalainen, 21.Glock, 22.Pic, 23.Karthikeyan, 24.de la Rosa.Qualifying 2
The difference in track temperature between Q1 and Q2 was 5C, starting out at 29C as the sun attempted to break through. Jean-Eric Vergne set a benchmark at 1:16.348 which was reduced to 1:14.810 by Nico Hulkenberg. Fernando Alonso was out early and put in a 1:14.631 and then went better with a 1:14.288 - Felipe Massa slotted into P2.
Both Mclaren and Red Bull left it very late in the session. Lewis Hamilton duly took P1 with a 1:13.398, Webber slotted into P2, and then Sebastian Vettel got a great tow off the Ferrari of Felipe Massa on the pit straight to claim P1 with a 1:13.209.
Times were improving throughout the session as the track warmed up and the tyres gripped. Running into the last two minutes the danger positions were: 8.Alonso, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.DiResta, 11.Senna, 12.Massa, 13.Schumacher, 14.Perez, 15.Ricciardo, 16.Vergne, 17.Kobayashi.
Former Brazilian polesitter Nico Hulkenberg jumped ahead of Alonso to take P7, Felipe Massa squeezed into the top ten in P10 but Michael Schumacher could not improve on P14. Paul DiResta had hoped to improve but came across Kamui Kobayashi rejoining the track at Turn 3 and had to abort the lap that might have got him into Q3
As the chequered flag came out the two Ferrari drivers had hung in there in P9 and P10, but out went: 11.DiResta, 12.Senna, 13.Perez, 14.Schumacher, 15.Kobayashi, 16.Ricciardo, 17.Vergne.
Nico Rosberg had ended up tying Michael Schumacher in qualifying performances 10-10, there was disappointment for the retiring Mercedes driver along with DiResta who was convinced he should have been in Q3.
By now the track temperature was up to 34C and Pastor Maldonado had missed a weight check at the end of Q2. Lewis Hamilton was out very early in Q3 and only Nico Rosberg had been out for a warm-up 1:22s lap when Hamilton slammed in a 1:12.850.
Fernando Alonso went P2, Felipe Massa took P2, Mark Webber then took P2, before Jenson Button took P2 with a 1;12.980.
Last out of the front-runners Sebastian Vettel made a rare mistake running wide at Turn 4 (Lake Descent) and losing half a second in the middle sector to end up P6.
So after the fist runs it was 1.Hamilton, 2.Button, 3.Webber, 4.Massa, 5.Alonso, 6.Vettel, 7.Rosberg.
Maldonado, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg would opt for just one run.
Hulkenberg came out for his solo shot and put the Force India into an impressive P4. Raikkonen could only manage P6 but all were in front of Vettel. Mark Webber then grabbed provisional pole with a 1:12.581, Alonso moved up to P5 on his last run, Maldonado got past both Hulkenberg and Alonso for P4, Massa then took P4 pushing Alonso down into P7 (Vettel was P9 but on a lap.)
Lewis Hamilton came across the line and took pole off Webber, Vettel improved but could only go P3 behind Webber but in front of Button who was behind him on track. Jenson came across the line for an impressive P2, just half a tenth down on Hamilton. It was an all-McLaren front row.
It had been an epic qualifying session with overtakes, accidents and both World Championship contenders qualifying behind their team-mates. It will take a very brave Ferrari team to demote Massa five places on the grid with a gearbox change at his home race as they did in the USA. In the wet there would be no point, but should the race look like starting in the dry, there certainly would be a temptation.
Some have contended that Ferrari have set Alonso's car up for a wet race, but if so, he wasn't spectacularly quicker than Hamilton and the rest in Q1 when the track was damp - although the teams were all running slicks at the time. Whatever the case, Hamilton, Button, Webber and Vettel are all good drivers in the wet. There is a lot of racing still to be done.
01 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:12.458
02 Jenson Button McLaren 1:12.513 0.055
03 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:12.581 0.123
04 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:12.760 0.302
05 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:12.987 0.529
06 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:13.174 0.716
07 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:13.206 0.748
08 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:13.253 0.795
09 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:13.298 0.840
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:13.489 1.031
11 Paul di Resta Force India 1:14.121
12 Bruno Senna Williams 1:14.219
13 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:14.234
14 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:14.334
15 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:14.380
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:14.574
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:14.619
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:16.967
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:17.073
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:17.086
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1:17.508
22 Charles Pic Marussia 1:18.104
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:19.576
24 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:19.699